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Tag Archive snacking

Too many or too little? The 411 on calorie intake.

Let’s Get Real.

As a Dietitian, I know it’s very tempting to just drastically reduce calories in an effort to lose weight fast in a simple manner. The problem is research has shown time and time again that this is not an effective approach to long-term weight loss. While it’s important that you control the number of calories you consume, too much restriction can halt your progress.

Too much calorie restriction affects overall health from your bone density to your ability to lose or regulate body weight. Lowering calorie intake reduces the amount of food you can eat and may prevent you from getting all the necessary nutrients. Research shows that calorie restriction reduces leptin, a hormone that helps to regulate your appetite. Low levels of leptin usually lead to hunger and overeating. Even more worrying than that, research also shows that low-calorie dieting increases stress and the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. As a result of this stress response, the body conserves energy and the Basal Metabolic rate slows to combat the risk of starvation. While you might think that drastically cutting calories is sure to result in weight loss, these changes in stress levels are actually associated with weight gain.

Then how many calories should I eat? Should I even change my diet?

The number of calories needed for weight loss is determined by several factors, and varies from person to person. This is why it is important to seek the help of an educated professional. Most people just take their height and weight to determine how much to eat but, it’s not that simple. Using the simple height and weight method leaves (+/-) 600 calories of error room. Dietitians and specialty medical professionals need information such as age, gender, muscle health, mental state, sleep rate and current activity level to determine a safe and effective number of calories to eat each day to reach your goals. So, obviously with that said, you can’t just wing it. As you decrease calories, it’s important not to drastically cut food intake. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a rule of thumb that women eat no fewer than 1,400 calories per day and that men eat no fewer than 1,800 calories per day. If you exercise you should add about 300 to 800 calories to that. These numbers can change based on the individual. Any intake lower than these recommended amounts should be closely monitored by your medical professional.

Then, what is the right way?

Losing weight at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week has been found to be the most effective method to keep it off for good. In order to lose weight at this rate, you will need to reduce calorie intake by 500 to 1000 calories per day. This reduction could put some people below the recommended 1,400  and 1,800 calorie minimum. This is one reason that exercise is an important tool for weight loss. The calories burned during exercise contribute to the calorie deficit you need for weight loss. By combining reduced food intake with regular exercise, you can still lose weight without severely limiting your calorie intake. This will prevent your metabolism from slowing and ensure your rate of weight loss remains steady.

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Portion Control the Right Way

Looking to lose weight but still want to eat some of your favorite things? Portion control can help you eat just the right amount of calories so you don’t over eat. If we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t need research to tell us that when faced with a larger portion size most people unintentionally consume more calories.

To lose weight you must burn more calories than you consume, therefore it is important to pay attention to those calories that you put in your body. Each nutrition label is designed to tell you the serving size amount based on the amount you should consume. Looks can be deceiving though. A bag of pretzels could actually be 2 serving sizes, so pay attention or you’ll be consuming double the calories on the nutrition label.

Here are a few helpful tips…

1. Always start a meal with a tall glass of water, this will help you not only with hydration but also help with over eating.

2. Slow your pace. Don’t be in a race to finish your food. Eating slower will help your brain let you know when you are full.

3. Restaurants do not normally serve the correct portion size for one person. Take control of the amount you eat by splitting a meal or boxing up half to go as soon as you receive your plate.

4. When eating in front of a TV screen or computer, take out the amount of food that you should eat and put it in a small bowl, that way you don’t get distracted and eat more than you should.

5. If you feel hungry between meals, grab a healthy snack. This will help avoid overeating at the next meal.

6. Avoid second helpings, you don’t always have to leave a meal stuffed.

To try and stay healthy and fit during the holidays season, remember portion control is key. Watch out for those foods loaded with calories and choose proteins, fruits, and veggies instead. Nutrition dense foods will keep you full longer and you won’t have to work as hard after the holidays to lose the extra pounds.

Why Are Americans Snacking More Often?

According to the U.S. governments most recent study What We Eat in American survey, 97% of adults in america snack at least once per day. Which means we are getting 1/4 of our calories from snacking (USDA 2014a). Snacking all throughout the day is becoming more popular and is causing american to put on the extra pounds!

On average, women consume about 400 calories per day from snacks and men 600 average a day. This has risen over the years and is at its all time high (USDA 2011). Is this because we are busy people and don’t have time to sit down with our families at night for dinner and would rather grab a granola bar or a quick item to snack on instead of taking the time to cut up a piece of fruit or saute some vegetables?

Snacks provide fast mini-meal options for people who are on the go, meal skippers, or non meal planners. Chips and fruit are the most popular afternoon snack, according to the 2013 Harman consumer study. Candy and ice cream remain the most popular evening snack. (Hartman Group 2013).

So how do you pick the right snack? Start by choosing a lower-sugar and higher protein option. This will extend the satiating power of the snack and you won’t be so ravenous when the next meal time comes around. Here are some suggestions for some healthy snacks between meals:

Morning: yogurt, baked snacks (whole grain bagel with nut butter), protein bar, a handful of almonds

Afternoon: pita chips with hummus, an apple with nut butter, berries, frozen fruit, a low sugar smoothie

Evening: fresh fruit with a few chocolate chips, low fat frozen yogurt, or a greek yogurt with fruit or granola

 

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